EGALITARIANISM: PRESCRIPTIVE OR DESCRIPTIVE?

Jüri Eintalu, PhD

To be presented at Estonian Annual Philosophy Conference XVI, Tartu University, 23.09.2021.

In the Soviet era, schools and universities taught that all nations, races, sexes, etc., should be treated equally because their capabilities are equal. My question about what if some groups of people would happen not to be factually equal never got an answer. Later, I have studied the philosopher David Hume formulated the fact/value distinction and asked how one can deduce prescriptions from the descriptions alone. In 1903, G. E. Moore called similar inferences “naturalistic fallacy”.

Nevertheless, in the Western world, up to the present day, the egalitarian ideology is mainly based on the assumption of factual, biological equality of capabilities of different groups of people. The fact/value or means/aims distinction is systematically neglected. Scientific studies concerning group differences are suppressed, and often the corresponding scientists are accused of “racism” or “sexism” even if they have presented merely descriptive claims.

If to let aside purely logical questions, the current practice also seems dangerous as it trains people to believe that the principle of equal treatment is unavoidably based on biological facts. As soon as some facts contradict the assumption of equal capabilities, it would erode the ideal of equal treatment.

Would it be not wiser to base the principle of equal treatment on something else than current scientific facts concerning human nature?

However, the question has the other side. It is plain that our policies cannot be completely independent of facts about human nature. First, our moral systems (e. g., utilitarianism) themselves make assumptions about human nature. Second, we cannot have an obligation to do what we are factually unable to do (G. E. Moore).

In sum, the following philosophical problem arises: How sensitive our policies can or should be concerning facts about human nature?

Published by wrestlerblower

Antiacademia.org

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